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There are over 7000 cenotes in the Yucatan peninsula! With the cave System Sac Actun (meaning white cave in Mayan) joining over 226 cenotes itself and extending for more than 368.6 km. This is the world’s largest underwater cave system at an average depth of 21 meters and a maximum depth of 119m.

Millions of years in the making

 

Millions of years ago the Yucatan peninsula was one huge coral reef system. Then came the Ice ages which drastically changed the water levels, exposing the corals and shell that was now a 2.5km/1.6mile thick limestone platform. Several times the water level exposed the reef to the elements and acidic rain.

 

This rain dissolved its way through the rocks carving huge passages on its way out to sea, forming massive underground river systems leading out into the Caribbean. There are no above ground rivers or lakes in the Yucatan peninsula, all are below.

Caves_sealevel-1w03a9f

At the peak of the Ice Age about 20,000 years ago the sea level was 120 meters below its current level!

González-González et al (2008) and Blanchon & Shaw (1995)

With the fluctuations in sea level over the years some caves became dry, leaving time for millions of beautiful stalagmites and stalactites to form; from the size of small straws to huge tree trunks.  These formations grow only about 0,4 inches every 1000 years showing the immense history stored in these rocks and cave systems.

 

With the water level changes also came less support to the cave roof which collapsed in places, creating some of the open cenotes we know today.

 

As the sea level eventually steadied and started to rise again around 18,000 years ago the cenotes became flooded again. The sea water entering from the bottom and fresh rainwater from the top, creating two distinct layers flowing one on top of the other. Where they meet is called the halocline producing stunning visual effects.

Myans and the importance of Cenotes

 

As the main water source of the area, the cenotes were of great importance to the Mayans. They had a dual symbology of life and death. They were the life giving water source but also considered to be the gateway to Xibalbá, the world of the dead.

 

The cenotes were home to the god of rain Chac who watched over Xibalba. He is often depicted in ancient artwork with his mouth gaping open, like a great entrance to a cavern. Therefore inside the cenotes offerings and rituals were performed to please the gods. Archaeologists have discovered Jade, pottery, gold and incense at the bottom of sacred cenotes along with human remains.

 

Studies performed on human remains found at the cenote in Chichen Itza showed wounds consistent with that of a human sacrifice. However many cenotes which also house human remains show no such wounds and the cenote could have simply been an alternative burial place for awaiting the next cycle in life.

 

The Mayan gods were served by the Alux, spirits of light and according to legend they swept through the cenotes every day at 5 pm turning off all the lights. Since most cenotes are still privately owned by devout Mayan families they still close at 4:59 pm.

Ancient Bones

 

Several human skeletons as old as 12000 years old have been found in the depths of the cenotes, as well as many hundreds of animals that roamed the area during the ice age.

 

Hoyo Negro is a one of a kind site, a deep pit within the system Sac Actun cave that acted as a fatal trap for many animals walking through the cave. The bones found there are from between 38,000 and 13,000 years ago during the Late Pleistocene Epoch period. There are giant sloths, gomphotheres (like elephants), tapirs, sabretooth cats, and the famous skeleton of Naia, the most complete bones of an early human found in the Americas. Many other caves also house animal remains though more scattered, most bones are located deep within the caves with many once lying close to the exits now housed in museums.

 

Many of the human remains found protected by the cave and waters have given scientists great information about the past. Naia’s bones – more than 12,000 years old – showed us she was 15-17 years of age at her death when she most likely fell into the pit. Her bones show a hard life with times of malnutrition; one of her upper arm bones is only as thick as her little finger and the shin bone and knee bones are striped with lines etched by halting growth. This was possibly from too little food or health problems – such as parasite infections – which prevented her from absorbing nutrients. The smoothness of her bones where muscles would have been attached shows underdeveloped arm muscles, but strong thighs. She didn’t routinely grind seeds, work animal skins or carry heavy loads; common tasks during her time, but probably roamed widely over the landscape. Her pelvis also revealed that she had had a child.

 

Other remains that have been found in excellent condition are the mujer de Las Palmas, a woman between 44 and 50 years old, 1.52cm tall and weighing about 58 kilos. From her remains it has even been possible to recreate her physical appearance, finding features that are close to those of the Southeast Asian population. These are key pieces to understanding the history of America, “since they strengthen the hypothesis that the American continent was populated from various migrations from Asia,” according to the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).

 

Other important remains are the Joven de Chan Hol, the Mujer de Naharon, and the Hombre del Templo.

Clarence H
Clarence H
2023-06-09
Excellent dive outfit! Liz and Andres provided a seamless, safe, and incredible dive experience. From the moment i reached out, Liz was very responsive and knowledgeable about diving in the tulum area. She was also very accommodating to all of my requests. Andres was an amazing extra pair of hands to help with equipment but also to talk to during those pesky surface intervals. If and when i am back in Tulum, I’ll definitely be diving with Jaguar Divers!
Sarah A
Sarah A
2023-05-30
TWO gorgeous dive days with Jaguar Liz is a fantastic dive master and guide! She is friendly and descriptive about the local environment and wildlife. We chose to dive with Liz and Jaguar Divers for 2 days, first a 2-dive boat trip out to the coast of Cozumel and a second day with 2 dives in Playa area cenotes. My husband had just finished his SCUBA open water certification and the Cozumel reef was a beautiful and exciting first day of diving for him. It was also my first drift dive, and following Liz's guidance and observing her calmness under the water helped to keep me calm as the strong current pushed us along the reef. In the cenotes her relaxed demeanor continued to be a great example to follow as we cruised quietly through the caverns. I will absolutely look up Jaguar Divers again when we return and recommend to anyone visiting along the Riviera Maya! Thank you for the great memories Liz!
Lora W
Lora W
2023-05-07
Great dive shop - highly recommend We had an awesome experience with jaguar divers/Liz! We hadn't been diving in several years so we did a refresher session in the morning then two dives in the Playa area in the afternoon. Well organized, clean and well equipped. Liz is so knowledgeable and a great guide. She went above and beyond to make our day great (and even recommended the best tacos we had all trip!)10/10 experience, highly recommend using jaguar divers!!
Nika
Nika
2023-05-05
Got my open water license with them, amazing experience! I did my open water diving license with Jaguar Divers and it was absolutely amazing! I started my diving license in Egypt but I didn't have time to finish it there so I decided to finish it in Mexico. I am allergic to chlorine so I could not do any pool dives and Jaguar Divers offered an option to do it in cenote which was just perfect and sooooo beautiful! Demian was very patient and nice, and it felt like I made a friend 🙂 I will be coming back to Mexico next year and cannot wait to do more dives with them and maybe even continue my certification! I definitely recommend Jaguar Divers to everyone, don't even think of any other place 🙂
Megan Z
Megan Z
2023-05-03
Best experience!! Absolutely wonderful experience with Jaguar Divers!! Liz is very knowledgeable and passionate about diving and the region! Would definitely recommend
fcuktravel
fcuktravel
2023-05-03
A great day in the Cenotes with Jaguar The whole experience with Jaguar divers was 5 star from start to finish, Liz was wonderful popped down to the hotel to explain everything day before.My Son Harry went on a two dive Cenotes day with Mariamma, he really enjoyed it and he would have gone again had we had enough time.Harry said that the Mariamma at jaguar is a great guide and really knowledgeable,whilst making the whole day fun Instructions were given on dos and don’ts in order to preserve the ecology of this natural wonder whilst diving there.I should be returning the Playa in July, Harry will be going diving again with this great team Thank you all especially Liz and MariammaIan from Uk (I now have wise 😂😂 )
Mick S
Mick S
2023-05-02
Awesome dive trip We had 6 amazing days diving with Liz and the team at Jaguar Divers. Very professional team, arranged everything and took us to some stunning locations.Can’t wait to dive with them again
uwdawg95
uwdawg95
2023-05-01
Ready to book our next adventure with Jaguar Divers Just came back from a 4-day company retreat to Cancun. One of excursion options was the ocean guided two-tank scuba diving with Jaguar Divers, which we selected due to their 5.0 rating on Google and Tripadvisor. We had a group of 14 (9 non-certified and 5 certified divers) which was probably too many for Jaguar Divers to handle in one day. Liz and Nicole did an amazing job of making sure all the non-certified divers felt comfortable in the classroom and backyard pool before hitting the ocean. Looking back after the day, I was so glab both were English speaking so there was not any issues with understanding the trainings. They were so patient fitting 14 divers with gear, working with smaller groups in the pool, getting us on the dive boat and helping us set up our tanks before our first dive. We had a couple of things go wrong at the first dive: 1) my flipper fell to the ocean floor as soon as I stepped of the back boat deck and 2) two non-certified divers quit after stepping off due to thick mustache allowing water in the mask and the other couldn't equalize ear pressure after multiple attempts. Nicole was a rockstar in grabbing my flipper and then assisting with getting it secured and then did everything she could with the other two issues before the divers finally threw in the towel and went back to the boat. Once under water the experience was a highlight of my life. We all felt so calm and remembered our training because I imagine one freak out may have shortened or ended the dive for the entire group. Our group highly recommends Jaguar Divers. Thanks Liz for sparking all our enthusiasm to become certified divers and come back for another adventure with Jaguar Divers. 🤿💙
Daniella Silva-Jensen
Daniella Silva-Jensen
2023-04-15
Unforgettable experience Liz and Maryama* are amazing guides to the cenotes. I loved every minute of the two days we spent with this dive shop, and I highly recommend them to anyone wanting to explore the caverns.
Cristal
Cristal
2023-04-12
The best place to dive! I've always wanted to try cenote diving but have been too afraid of the darkness (and cold 🥶). Liz was very comforting and reassuring and made me feel very comfortable throughout my two dives.I highly recommend diving with Liz and her team. They're professional every step of the way and are amazing divers so I always felt like I was learning something new.